Are you starting to get ANNOYED at or one passage, one phrase, or even one note that's causing you trouble? Switch up your routine! If you've practiced that pesky passage a lot on its own, then try singing the song all the way through. Let it be imperfect for a little bit and have some fun. Even if it's unfinished, you can still perform it beautifully. If you still feel frustrated, take a few days off from it or take it out of your repertoire book for a while. Otherwise, you may end up stuck in a rut where you always associate a great song with feelings of frustration and defeat. Great songs can take time. Don't let any song that you love become condemned as a source of unhappiness! It may still be a JOY one day soon!
Are ALLERGIES affecting your voice? Common symptoms of allergies are a coughing, runny nose, and congestion. This congestion can change or limit the way we use our vocal resonators - particularly Nasal Resonance. One solution to this problem is the use of a Neti Pot to keep the nasal cavity clean and clear. Another solution can be allergy medications. However, many allergy medications are antihistamines and that have a drying effect on the mouth, throat, and vocal folds. So, the best solution possible is to learn what triggers your allergies and to avoid those circumstances whenever possible. Consult a doctor to learn what those triggers are for you. And, work with your Voice Teacher to make sure that your technique can carry you through any allergies issues you may have!
Do you lose vocal presence when you sing QUIETLY? Messa Di Voce to the rescue! "Messa Di Voce" is a vocal skill in which a sustained note moves gradually from soft volumes to louder volumes and then back. Try it! Sing an AH vowel on any single note and then crescendo and decrescendo all during one breath. As you sustain the note, try to change nothing at all besides volume. Work to maintain consistent tone, color, registration, resonance, and energy! The alternation between louds and softs will help to bring presence to your voice, even during quiet singing. Mastery of Messa Di Voce is a very advanced vocal skill, but singers of all levels will benefit from practicing it. So, don't lose presence! Messa with your Voce instead!
Feeling Joyful? Feeling sad? Your voice reflects your emotional well-being more than you can imagine. JOY inspires exuberant, energetic singing, whereas depression can make creating or even listening to music difficult. Some singers even struggle to make bold, strong sounds because they struggle with self-confidence in daily life. Never fear! Singing is actually one of the greatest cures for the hardships in our lives! Invite your Vocal Journey to be a part of your Inner Journey. Let singing help pull you out of the sorrows that you are experiencing. Let your "Joyful Noise" reflect any happiness you feel deep down in your spirit. But, also invite singing into the pain and suffering that you are overcoming! And YES... you WILL overcome this...
Singing is a SPORT! When you work on your technique - that's like hitting the GYM. Great technique exercises are designed to work specific muscle groups and coordinations that make you a seasoned vocal athlete. When you work on your songs - that's like playing the SPORT itself. Each song and style will have particularly rules and obstacles for you to learn and overcome to have success. When you go to perform or audition - that's GAME DAY! Show up in uniform feeling good about how hard you've worked "off the field". Leave your nerves, self-doubt, and insecurity back in the locker room. Take in your game-face and your confident, winning attitude knowing that your sweating days are already behind you. Go get 'em Champ! Singing is a SPORT!
Do you know what it's like to be a sound engineer? How about a freelance bassist? A theater producer? You don't need to be an expert in every field, but it's very helpful to know what it's like to work in other areas of the Music Industry. Learn more about the kind of hours your colleagues work, how they're paid, and how they go about finding jobs. It will help you grow both as an artist and businessperson. It will also help you understand circumstances that may seem frustrating or difficult. Often these are the result of factors from another facet of the business that you didn't know about. So, learn about your colleagues! You'll be happier, more professional, and others will value the fact that you know where they're coming from!
Practice makes perfect. Sure. But, it can also drive you NUTS! There are so many technical, stylistic, and musical elements to focus on - it's not always easy to know what to do next. Or, perhaps you end up practicing only the things you do well. Creating a Practice Plan can save a lot of time and frustration. First, figure how frequently you can practice and for how long. Vocal Practice doesn't need to be long to be efficient. In fact, even 15 or 20-minute increments can help you maintain focus and manage your time more effectively. Try labelling these increments with what you want to use the time for: "Resonance", "Agility", "Range", "Songwork", etc. This will be time better spent than an hour of unfocused energy and scattered objectives. Make a plan that helps your singing progress like it should!
GENERALITIES are commonly thought to be an actor's worst curse. But, this problem plagues singers as well. Great actors learn to play "actions" and "objectives" instead of broad and general emotions. Actors often score their scripts, writing their objectives in the margins next to each of their lines. Music and singing heighten emotions even further which can cause performances to become generic. So, try the same trick for each line of your song! Instead of writing "happy" or "depressed", try active verbs with each line: "to celebrate", "to chastise", "to boast". Then, think about how you would accomplish each action vocally. This will give you much more SPECIFICITY and detail in both your acting and your singing!
Mastering the nuances of each Vowel can revolutionize your vocal technique! Each Vowel has a distinct shape when sung. The long EE sound, as in "geese," is known as a Close Front Vowel. It feels as though it buzzes forward in the face, and the tongue is arched high in the back. This diminishes the space in the back of the mouth. Conversely, the "AH" vowel sound, as in "hot," is categorized as an Open Back vowel. You can feel why - the tongue drops and creates more mouth space. Plus, the resonance seems to retreat more into the back of the mouth. Practice FEELING the difference between these two very different vowels. Pay close attention to how the internal shape of your mouth changes the sounds you create as you work through all your vowels!
Get in a good RELATIONSHIP… with the Composer! Often as artists, we're very focussed on bringing our own unique sound and interpretation to a piece of music. However, in the process of trying to offer our own artistry, we often forget how much has already been done for us. Why did the composer write this song? Why were these specific notes, intervals, and rhythms chosen? Why did the lyrics have to be these lyrics and not something else? Remember that composers are gifted and soulful artists just like you. When you consider what THEIR soul is saying in the song, then go back and add what YOUR soul wants to say. Your solos will have DOUBLE the artistic potency! You'll even find that your craft feels a lot easier whenever you're singing divine duets. Two is better than one!
Have you ever wondered why the way you STAND affects your singing? For example, leaning your body weight back into your heels makes vocal production more DIFFICULT. Sitting back in the heels causes muscle contractions in your legs, hips, lower back to help keep your balance and stand upright. This kinetic chain of muscle contractions eventually leads to an increased need for abdominal pressure. Excessive abdominal pressure usually leads to excessive subglottal pressure which can cause a "pushed" or "squeezed" sound. Keep your weight distributed evenly into the floor, making sure to not lock the knees, torque the hips, or press the abs. These subtle adjustments to the way you carry yourself will put you in alignment with greater flexibility and freedom!
Be a Vocal ARTISTE! Put your vowels on a color spectrum! Think of the primary vowels (A, E, I, O, and U) as primary colors. We can make every shade of vowel in between those vowels, the same way we can find every shade of color in between the primary colors. Then, apply these colors to your singing. If an EE vowel feels too bright, try heading toward EH. Or, if an OO vowel feels too closed, try moving in the direction of OH. If your tongue weighs down the AH vowel, try brightening it with EH. What shades of vowels can you find that best enhance your vocal artistry? Get ready for your most colorful singing ever!
Feel like you're not getting enough AIR? Try invoking the "Rule of 12 Breaths"! While sitting down, breathe 3 times into your ribs with arms over your head. Then clasp your hands behind your back, push them down and breathe 3 times across your chest. Next wrap your hands around yourself in a hug and breathe into your back 3 times. Finally, roll down and place your elbows on your knees. Again, breathe 3 times and feel the expansion in your lower back, belly, and pelvis. After 12 breaths, you should feel a great expansion of breath all over your body! Any time your breathing is feeling shallow, just remember the "Rule of 12 Breaths". You'll be breathing much more efficiently without even having to get up!
From fry to falsetto, fantastic singers at the forefront of their vocal style employ a multitude of vocal tricks to excite their fans. But, the one stylistic element that is always present, regardless of style, is the use of TENSION and RELEASE. You hear it when a singer breaks their voice, or quickly releases the tension of chest voice into head voice. You hear it when a singer increases the compression in one word, only to release it on the next word. You hear it when a verse is relatively soft when compared to the more intense chorus. You even hear it on an emotional and dramatic level between song lyrics and phrases. The Tension/Release concept is present in every aspect of really great performances, both technical and emotional. So, don't be tense about style! Just use tension and release to free up all kinds of new possibilities!
Want to adjust the Larynx without even thinking about it? Try thinking about your BREATH sometimes instead of your Larynx. While it's helpful to adjust the Larynx directly, sometimes adjustments are better made indirectly. When you take a breath deep in the body, the larynx actually drops a little bit automatically. This slightly lowered position allows for greater resonance and looser vocal folds. Not to mention that a low breath sets you up for optimal breath support. While good vocal technique often asks us to isolate different components of our instrument, it's also great for them to work together. Let your low breath and your low larynx be in harmony!
Ever feel your voice resonate in your EARS? If so, then something is actually going right! The ear canal is located near to the vocal tract. This is why you see an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor) when something is wrong with your voice. All these areas are interrelated. Often when singers sing high notes successfully, they report feeling the sound in their ears. This is no coincidence! High notes are usually felt resonating upwards in the head, forehead, cheeks, nose, and you guessed it… the EARS. So, next time you find yourself listening too hard to yourself while you sing - put your ears to good use instead! Feel your high notes in your EARS!
Do you desire to RIFF with freedom and ease? Here's a great Riff strategy! Find a song with one of your favorite Riffs. Break it down so that you know all the notes, rhythms, and details. Then, make it into a Vocal Exercise! Practice it at a variety of tempos and in many different keys! Move it up and down across your entire range and even sing it in different registers of your voice! Repeat this same process with other favorite Riffs. By practicing Riffs as Vocal Exercises, you will be expanding your Riff vocabulary so that these Riffs can be executed at any time you desire, in any key you desire, at any speed you desire, and with any registration you desire!
The PASSAGGIO is the area in our range where our voice tends to break or crack. All singers are familiar with this PESKY spot! When trying to sing in this region, we want to make sure that we keep a narrow embouchure, a stable larynx, and recruit some nasal resonance. Here's a great exercise for when you are having difficulty navigating the passaggio! Try singing "MA-AWN-NAWN-NAWN" on a 1-5-3-1 interval. The "AWN" syllable will help to ensure stability and resonance as you ascend to the higher note. Work through that troublesome spot with this exercise and you'll see it smooth out more and more. And you'll fear the Passaggio less and less!
The JAW is one of the most common sites of tension when we sing. It can sometimes get so tense that it won't want to budge even when trying move it with our hands! To help loosen the jaw, let your hands participate in the jaw's movement. Let your mouth drop open, then close again. Repeat this with your hands on your jawbone. Let them pull down gently as your jaw drops, following the jaw's motion. Repeat this a few times, then let your hands gently drive the downward motion. If that feels good, try moving your jaw slightly from side to side. Again, start by letting your jaw lead and your hands follow. Then, let your hands lead and your jaw follow. The difference in tone quality when singing with a relaxed jaw is quite remarkable! But, sometimes it needs a helping hand!
When selecting new Repertoire to build your voice, one of the greatest secrets is to find MODERATE challenges. In other words, don't select a song that's too easy nor a song that's too difficult. Many singers pick material that is far too challenging thinking "if only I can sing THIS song, then everything else will be easy". This is actually a big mistake. The voice is built fastest and freest when it grows in small, steady increments. Look for songs that are mostly within your range except for a few difficult passages that stretch you. Consider not just range, but also tessitura, length of notes and phrases, agility, musical difficulty, stylistic details, and emotional depth. In finding songs that are challenging, yet still achievable you'll feel happier about your voice and you'll also see it grow faster than ever!
We all have days when we don't feel 100%, but we still go to work and get things done. The voice is exactly the same. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, it just doesn't feel at its best. Does that mean we should hide away and make no sound? Not at all! Professional performers sing through allergies, colds, and plain old bad days all the time. The secret is recognizing the limits of your voice while maintaining healthy technique when something feels a little different. Perhaps that high note just isn't going to sound as clear as usual. Maybe a long sustained note won't make it quite as far. That's okay! A day where you're not at 100% is an opportunity to bring your vocal technique to 200%!
Being BREATHY doesn't mean being weak! Many singers use a "Breathy" (or aspirate) tone as an artistic choice. There is a difference, though, between being Breathy and singing everything in Head Voice or Falsetto. You can practice using Breathy qualities in your Chest and Mix Voice as well by using the letter H. Start by singing "MAH MAH MAH" on 1-2-1, low in your range where you are comfortably in your chest register. Then try "HAH HAH HAH," letting the H sound extend into the vowel itself. Try other vowels, like "HOO" and "HAY." Finally, try putting the H in front of words in whatever song you're working on. Now you can use Breathiness as a sytlistic texture without losing your lower registers' natural strength! Be strong AND be Breathy!
One of biggest challenges in singing and in life is LETTING GO. When something doesn't go quite how we hoped, we often spend countless hours ruminating over WHAT happened, WHY it happened, and the million ways it could have gone BETTER. Rather than beating yourself up, take a step back and try to view things objectively! This isn't always easy, but here's a trick: imagine that whatever is bothering you happened to your best friend instead. Your friend calls and retells the story. What would you say to them? Imagine the dialogue you two have, and take your own advice! Understanding the scenario through a different lens will help you resolve the issue, let it go, and move forward with your artistry and life. You may even find that some of your challenges end up becoming your best friends!